Brazil’s policy toward Israel and Palestine in Dilma Rousseff and Michel Temer’s administrations: have there been any shifts?, interview with Tullo Vigevani and Karina Calandrin by Sara Rodrigues

A country’s foreign policy is the result of the combination of actors and structures both domestic and international. The interaction between these variables is seen in the history of the Brazilian relations with the Middle East, more specifically in its relationship with Israel and Palestine. Taking that into consideration, the article “Brazil’s policy toward Israel and Palestine in Dilma Rousseff and Michel Temer’s administrations: have there been any shifts ?” authored by Tullo Vigevani and Karina Calandrin analyzes the Brazilian posture towards this region from 2011 to 2018. The purpose of the study is to understand how the domestic variables present at the time influenced the policy of both governments. Subsequently, the article evaluates whether there were variations in the Brazilian foreign policy to Israel and Palestine from one administration to the other in one or more of the four levels of change suggested by Hermman (1990). The article was published in RBPI Vol. 62, n. 1 – 2019.

The authors were interviewed by Sara Domingos Rodrigues, member of the promotion staff of RBPI, regarding their views on topics related to their research

In your article, you make the case that the shifts in the Brazilian foreign policy between Rousseff’s and Temer’s administrations were mainly rhetoric. In January 2019 a new government was elected. Having that in mind, do you believe that Brazil’s foreign policy might see deeper changes in the level of problem/goal and/or international orientation or that the continuity with the posture of previous administrations should prevail?

In our article, as in our researches about Brazil’s foreign policy, in which we consider the universal and the Brazilian elaboration in the field of international relations, we highlight that in the years between 2011 and 2018, despite the Brazilian crisis and the political radicalization against Rousseff’s government, the changes that happened during Temer’s administration were contained in what concerns the relations with the Middle East and, particularly, in relation to the Israel-Palestine conflict. There was a discourse favorable to the development of closer ties with Israel, but without the dismissal of what is called in the Brazilian diplomatic language the prevalence of the international law. In the article, now published, in which we use the categorization of Charles Hermann (1990) to the foreign policy changes of a country, we do not exclude that deeper shifts may occur. Such a question is developed in theoretical terms by the mentioned author. What we discuss are the reasons for the continuity spaces of Brazil’s policy in international and domestic contexts so different.

As you explain in the article, the Middle East participation in Brazilian exports has increased considerably from 2000 to 2017 even though it remains low (5,36%). Having that reality in mind, do you believe that there is space for a more significant commercial trade between Brazil and the Middle East?

The trade numbers that we presented reflect the situation of the Brazilian exports in general, which are historically based on commodities. The Middle East countries, in general, are also producers of primary goods. In the case of Israel, the relations point, for several years, to the perspective of increased technological collaboration. What we can say is that the incrementation of Brazil’s exports to the region since 2000 was above the average – Middle East participation went from 2,4% in 2000 to 5,36% in 2017. This was not casual, the evolution is related to a policy expressly directed to this goal from governments and business sectors. In conclusion, we can say that the space for expansion exists, but it is not a certainty that it can be seized. This depends on the conjugated actions of public and private actors. Some call this a national project that aims the international insertion.

Taking into consideration the importance for Brazil of Israeli technological transfers as well as the surplus trade with Arab countries, what do you consider to be the most adequate Brazilian position towards Israel and Palestine so that these relations are not undermined by political questions?

In the article published by RBPI, we state that the economic relations with the Middle East were not affected significantly by the conflicts in the region during the time period analyzed (2011 – 2018). On the contrary, the articulated Brazilian policies enabled improvement. What we can see on the second semester of 2018 and in the current of 2019 is that occasional changes of orientation might lead to difficulties in the relations with countries in the region, including the deterioration of the trade environment. According to Gourevitch (1978) and Rogowski (1990), international commerce may be an important element in the promotion of political and social alliances on the national level. Obviously, there are other factors that determine theses alliances, such as different world views. In the case of Brazil’s position in relation to the Israel-Palestine conflict, the historical experience suggests the importance of the defense of the principles of international legality and the rights of all peoples.

Which would be the main Brazilian groups of influence engaged in Brazil’s position towards the Israel-Palestine question? What is the relationship between these groups with the factors that contribute to the continuity of the Brazilian foreign policy mentioned in the article?

It is hard to answer this question. The article looks at elements of International Relations theory, of Brazil’s foreign policy formulation, and also at domestic intervening actors. It is impossible not to notice that there are important forces that seek change. What we could verify, through documental analysis is that in the time period studied, those engagements did not alter structurally the direction of politics even though they have caused important effects. To those who study international relations and Brazil foreign policy, it will be necessary to understand the impact of the relations that have been developing, taking into consideration, for example, the interests of specific social groups, such as the agribusiness. The topic of technological transfer impacts certain groups more strongly. There is also the theme of the ethnic and religious communities, which are not always homogenous even internally. The issue of the relations with the Middle East and its conflicts, even for countries with bigger economic and military weight, is directly influenced by the structure of international relations. In this case, the United States’ politics have influenced Brazil, although not unequivocally, as we know thanks to the researches about the Brazilian policy to the Middle East.

Read the article

Vigevani, Tullo, & Calandrin, Karina Stange. (2019). Brazil’s policy toward Israel and Palestine in Dilma Rousseff and Michel Temer’s administrations: have there been any shifts?. Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional, 62(1), e009. Epub July 18, 2019.https://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0034-7329201900109

About the authors

Tullo Vigevani – Universidade Estadual Paulista, Programa de Pós-Graduação em Relações Internacionais, São Paulo, SP, Brazil (vigevanit@uol.com.br)

Karina Stange Calandrin – Universidade do Sagrado Coração, Relações Internacionais, Bauru, SP, Brazil (karinacalandrin@gmail.com)

Sara Rodrigues – University of Brasilia – Institute of International Relations. Brasília, Brazil

How to cite this interview

Mundorama. "Brazil’s policy toward Israel and Palestine in Dilma Rousseff and Michel Temer’s administrations: have there been any shifts?, interview with Tullo Vigevani and Karina Calandrin by Sara Rodrigues". Mundorama - Revista de Divulgação Científica em Relações Internacionais,. [Acessado em 15/09/2019]. Disponível em: <https://www.mundorama.net/?p=25804>.

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